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Sharkbait's Revenge

by Stuart Lloyd

Blackbeard, as depicted in 'A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates'
Unknown artist, c.1724
Blackbeard. A name that sends shivers of terror down the spines of all the inhabitants of the Archipelago of Guatam. Unless of course, you work for the East Sea Trading Company, in which case it is the name Blackbird that sends shivers of terror down your spine. This all started when a dozy clerk wrote "Blackberd" on a wanted poster. His supervisor, who just wanted to go for some rum, did not bother to check the original letter and changed the name on the poster to "Blackbird". This caused a lot of confusion, not least for the people who met the man himself as he had a multicoloured macaw on his shoulder, prompting a barrage of questions.

The skulls of that clerk and his supervisor now hang from the crow's nest of Blackbeard's flagship, the Retribution; the thought of which always raises an ironic smile with your captain.

This sort of thing is characteristic of the sadistic and despotic man. His real name is Edward Thatcher, born in the distant country of Amero. He is a giant of a man with a long black beard, plaited into many tails and tied with colourful ribbons - hence the name. His body bears many scars from the daring attacks he has made on heavily armed ships. His long black leather coat, sling holding six pistols and his habit of putting lit flaming matches in his beard and hat added to his reputation of being bloodthirsty, deadly and boundless in his cruelty. The man was not without humour. Sometimes, during meals, he would blow out the candle on the table and then fire his pistols under the table. He kneecapped his first mate one time. "He won't forget who's in charge now!" Laughed the captain.

Another time, he gathered the crew of the Retribution into the hold, and set fire to a pile of brimstone there. "Let us see who can bear a hell of our own making me hearties!" He cackled. While most of the crew ran for the deck, Blackbeard stayed in the sulphurous hold for over an hour, something he would boast about from then on.

Although his family had made a fortune in the spice trade, he did not want to make an honest living. At first, he proved himself to be an able sailor and a strong leader; however, he was just biding his time. When he was given his first commission, a sloop full of saffron, he took off with it and sailed the small ship across the treacherous ocean to the distant isles of Guatam. Many thought that he would sink on such a long journey, but his daring and courage shone through. He arrived, triumphant, his sloop also laden with rum he had stolen from a merchant ship. He promptly sold the sloop, the spices and the rum to buy a bigger ship, brimming with cannons. His only problem was finding a bigger crew.

He strolled into the first inn he saw and declared who he was and what he wanted. He got howls of laughter in response. A pirate walked up to him and spat in his face. That pirate's skull now resides in Thatcher's quarters as a wineglass. He killed six men that night with his bare hands, including the infamous Calico Jack, the most wanted man in Guatam at the time. He never had any recruitment problems after that. Over the years, He became the most feared man of the seas. Murder, extortion, and kidnap - nothing was too low for the arch pirate if there was enough loot. Now, Blackbeard is in command of three ships full of gold, silver, gems and other treasures stolen from just about everyone in Guatam.

You are the navigator of Blackbeard's flagship, the Retribution. You have barely slept in the last week as you have been trying to flee half a dozen heavily armed and well manned ships from the Guatam government and the East Sea Trading Company. Admiral Brandon, governor of Port Leyland seems doggedly determined to put an end to Blackbeard's exploits. Even Blackbeard is not daring to attack this formidable fleet. However, he is relaxed enough to hold a dinner with his officers on the Skull and Crossbow. He has left you in charge with specific instructions which he gave you in his gruff, clipped pirate's accent.

"In about an hour, we'll come across an island with a little known reef nearby. We need to go west around the island to avoid it, otherwise, we'll be sunk. Our pursuers won't know about it and we'll send them to Davy Jones' Locker."

The lookout in the crow's nest shouts that he can see the isle and you command the helmsman to take a hard port. You are flung forward as the ship lurches to a sharp halt. You pick yourself up.

"What the hell happened?"

"We hit a reef, sir!" Shouts a cabin boy looking over the bow. The ship lurches again, throwing you all off your feet. "We're sinking!" Shouts the bo'sun. "Abandon ship!" You order. The pirates rush about in panic, running for the lifeboats. You look around you. You notice that the Pan and Crocodile is in a similar predicament and is going down fast, but the Skull and Crossbow is heading off in the opposite direction. It must have swerved at the last minute to avoid the reef. At least the captain is fine, but that doesn't help you.

You're sharkbait. The ship is now sinking fast. The rest of the crew are on the lifeboats heading to the island. You notice that they haven't left you one. You know why. They see you as responsible for causing this disaster and if they catch you on the island they will probably skin you alive. However, the island is the only escape you've got. You need to think fast in order to survive this predicament...
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